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A short, philosophical meditation on our Best of Texas BBQ Tour

Posse BBQ judges (L-R) Jim Rossman, Bruce Tomaso and Gary Jacobson sample the meats at Fargo’s Pit BBQ in Bryan. (Photo by Tom Fox/DMN) In some respects, our recent Best of Texas barbecue tour was like a cookoff. Only the food didn’t come to the judges, we went to the food. Eating at 10 places over 48 hours and scoring each joint’s brisket, pork ribs and sausage — the three foundation meats of Texas BBQ — gave us a good framework for comparison. It also focused our attention entirely on the basics. Yes, side dishes are important. And so are…
 - 03/07/2013
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It’s the Super Bowl of BBQ tours for the Posse

As we prepared for our biggest tour ever this weekend, members of the Texas BBQ Posse faced their biggest controversy yet: Should sausage count as much as brisket in determining the best barbecue joint in the state? On our organized tours and smaller excursions over the past 4 years, members of the Posse have visited hundreds of places in search of the best smoked meats in Texas. Now, to determine the very best – at least for this one trip — we plan to visit our 10 favorites over three days, covering nearly 700 miles. Then, we’ll rank the top…
 - 02/04/2013
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About the iguana who thought he was a cat and the python who only eats rats

On a barbecue tour, there is no such thing as down time. Even the long drives bring surprises. Last year, returning to Dallas from East Texas, we decided that someone should call out Texas Monthly for including joints that use gas-fired pits in its Top 50 BBQ rankings. We did just that, eventually engaging TM food editor Pat Sharpe in a constructive discussion about the magazine’s selection criteria. Sometimes, we just learn interesting things about our fellow Posse members. On the first leg of our recent 35-hour, 700-mile dash to the Gulf Coast and back, Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins talked…
 - 06/22/2012
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Professor Rossman explains the BBQ star system

So we’re sitting in our bring-your-own chairs on the narrow sidewalk outside of Fargo’s Pit BBQ in Bryan during our recent tour, loudly licking our fingers after eating some fine brisket, ribs, chicken and sausage. “I like everything,” I said. “That’s rare,” Posse member Jim Rossman said. “A five-star place is good at everything. A six-star place is good at everything all the time. Consistency.” Rossman, a technology expert at The Dallas Morning News when he isn’t visiting pawn shops and eating barbecue, did an authoritative job explaining the star-rating system that the Posse borrows from Daniel Vaughn, the BBQ…
 - 06/18/2012
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A meditation on “creamy, crunchy” BBQ perfection

Recently, one of our readers, probably from Houston, took issue with a reference here to the spectacular ribs at City Market in Luling, seen in the photo above. A Posse member called the best rib he had ever eaten — just that morning at City Market — “moist, creamy, crunchy perfection.” Our reader wondered how any real barbecue fan could ever call a rib creamy. Of course, he was probably more upset that the same post essentially said the best barbecue in Houston was average when compared to the best in Dallas. Hot barbecue opinions, like hot sports opinions, do…
 - 06/15/2012
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On a barbecue tour, Facebook is your friend

From the accompanying video (* the video was removed a while after we wrote about it), it would appear that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a barbecue fan. Though it’s hard to think that Silicon Valley’s apparent taste for fish eyes would ever catch on in Texas. Anyway, real barbecue aficionado or not, the Posse wants to thank Zuck for developing the best tool ever for keeping barbecue fans informed and connected, especially when they are on a tour. Witness our recent 700-mile, 35-hour run to the Texas Gulf Coast and back. Posse co-founder and ace photographer Chris Wilkins regularly…
 - 06/13/2012
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History more interesting than BBQ at Pizzitola’s in Houston

Pizzitola’s. Great name for a pizza joint. And that’s exactly what what some potential customers mistakenly thought until the place changed its signs several years ago, adding references to barbecue, said manager Lexie Moore. “Everyone thanked us for bringing barbecue to the neighborhood,” Moore said. “We had it all the time.” We arrived at Pizzitola’s Bar-B-Cue on Shepherd Drive in Houston about an hour or so before closing on a Friday night. The joint touts itself as “Houston’s Home for Spareribs” and they weren’t bad. Neither was the sausage. But the brisket was closer to roast beef, dry and without…
 - 06/12/2012
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If you want good BBQ in Houston, get in a car and drive 2 hours

Gatlin’s BBQ, located just a few miles from downtown Houston, might have the best motto we’ve ever run into on our barbecue tours. “Welcome to Gatlin’s,” the sign said. “Where love is the secret ingredient.” And if you want to experience the reality of life in a no-zoning, anything-goes big city, this is the place. Next door is a garden expo that looks like a nursery. Directly across the street are an engine repair business, a house where people live and an automotive sales building. Welcome to Houston. Gatlin’s gets rave reviews from some, but the Posse was underwhelmed. “If…
 - 06/11/2012
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The Posse takes a beach break in Galveston

For me, a little beach goes a long way. So, during the Posse’s 45-minute beach break in Galveston last weekend, midway through a 700-mile, 35-hour barbecue tour, I mainly watched the pelicans dive-bombing for fish. At times, I’d swear those big birds were flying in attack formation. Phil Lamb, an attorney and also the wheelman on the tour in his Chevy Tahoe, fished from a rocky breakwater nearby. He caught one small mullet and 15 pounds of seaweed. Chris Wilkins, a photo editor at The Dallas Morning News, shucked his shoes and walked into the surf for a while. Then…
 - 06/09/2012
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Avoiding the dreaded barbecue belch

On a barbecue tour, sometimes wisdom sneaks up on you. And so it was in Galveston on Saturday when Leon O’Neal told us his secret to preventing his customers from burping after they ate his smoked meat. Use dry wood, the owner of Leon’s World’s Finest In and Out B-B-Q said, standing in front of a tall wall of cut oak. “That’s where the after belch comes from.” In other words, sappy wood is burping bad. Some might put this wisdom in the same category as always buy brisket from the left side of the cow, which we wrote about a…
 - 06/05/2012
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Without a doubt, Fargo’s is one of the best BBQ joints in Texas

When you hit the Texas BBQ trail, there are often more disappointments than pleasant surprises. How can a place that looks so cool from the outside have such tasteless meat inside? How can a perennial BBQ people’s choice winner be so bad? We’ve seen and learned a lot over the past two and a half years as we travel around the state searching for the best smoked meats. Our recent Speedtrap BBQ Tour is a perfect example. Snow’s BBQ and City Meat Market in Giddings were off-the-charts good, just like they’ve always been when we go there. The next couple…
 - 01/30/2012
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The Barbecue Chronicles: Tales from the Speedtrap BBQ Tour

Here’s Posse member Bruce Tomaso’s take on our recent Speedtrap BBQ Tour. Bruce joined Marshall Cooper, Jim Rossman and me on a 500-plus mile trek that began at Snow’s BBQ, our favorite place to start every tour in central Texas. Here are some stories from one of our best BBQ journeys yet….. Last Friday night, a friend and I went to see Tool. My friend, a student at Texas Christian University, doesn’t have a car, so I picked him up. I got off work and headed west on Interstate 30 from downtown Dallas to the TCU campus in Fort Worth.…
 - 01/26/2012
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The Speedtrap BBQ Tour – an early look

Wheels up this morning at 6:30 a.m. from Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper’s driveway in North Dallas. Our first destination was breakfast at Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, which has become a ritual for us when starting a tour in central Texas. To be followed by four more joints and 500-plus miles on the Texas BBQ Trail. Anticipation was building as we approached the Lexington city limits. The speed limit dropped from 65 to 55mph, but no one noticed. We were talking Snow’s and what we would order for breakfast. No one except one of Lexington’s finest, running radar less than a…
 - 01/22/2012
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Where’s the smoke? the Posse asks after visiting historic Dallas joints

The wooden sign on the wall at the original Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse on Inwood Road says “Real Texas Bar-B-Que.” It’s next to a large black and white photo of Sonny himself. The late Dallas BBQ patriarch, dressed in a white shirt, white apron and white chef’s hat, has a gentle smile on his face and a big carving knife in his hand. Once upon a time, that sign might have been accurate. Not anymore. The same goes for all four of the joints the Posse visited on a recent Saturday during its Roots of Dallas BBQ Tour, which included the…
 - 01/19/2012
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Roots of Dallas BBQ Tour

For our first BBQ tour of new year, a dozen Posse members met this morning to retrace some Dallas BBQ history. We started at the original Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse BBQ on Inwood, followed by stops at Odom’s Bar-B-Que, the original Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and ending at Peggy Sue BBQ in Snider Plaza. Our past tours have averaged anywhere from 200 to 600 miles of driving. This one was 16 miles from the first stop to the last. None of the places came close to the elite BBQ in the area or the state, but it was fun to get together…
 - 01/14/2012
etxLede

The Barbecue Chronicles: Back to East Texas where we find proof that wood rules

It had been a few months since the Posse’s last barbecue tour. So, we reminded ourselves to be conservative and not overeat at the first stop. “I’m just going to have one rib,” said tour veteran Marshall Cooper as he drove east from Dallas on I-20. His passengers laughed. “Well, if they’re good I might have four or five,” he conceded. In the end, somehow, Texas barbecue always manages to bring out the truth. For this chapter of our barbecue chronicles, we traveled 290 miles over 10 hours on a beautiful spring Saturday that was chilly when we started and…
 - 05/01/2011
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Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Q in Lockhart: Where the locals eat

Finishing our I-10 BBQ roadtrip in Lockhart was never the plan. We pulled away from our fourth stop, Family Tradition Bar-B-Q in Waelder, without a destination in mind. Jeff and I headed west on Hwy. 90 toward Luling, where we had started the day with a 10:30 am BBQ breakfast at City Market. Passing through town we saw the sign: Lockhart – 17 miles. You gotta do what you gotta do. We headed north up Hwy. 183 and were in Lockhart in no time. Carl Ellis, a former Dallas Morning News sports editor who now lives in Lockhart, had told…
 - 04/26/2011
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BBQ Signs of our Times – Chapter 3

Back by popular demand, our BBQ signs series continues. A rule of thumb: The more homemade the sign, the down home the barbecue. Here are some signs from our recent East Texas II BBQ Tour and a couple of other recent BBQ roadtrips. You can click to see the first BBQ Signs of our Times post or BBQ Signs of our Times II. Thanks to new posse member Phil Lamb for his contributions to this chapter. Family Tradition Bar-B-Q, Waelder, TX Baby J’s Bar-B-Que & Fish, Palestine, TX Lonnie Ray’s BBQ, Harrisburg, MO Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Que, Tyler, TX Stacy’s…
 - 04/23/2011
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Best name ever for a barbecue joint? Smok’n J’s Butt Nekkid BBQ

Editor’s note: This just is now closed. We were driving on Highway 19 between Palestine and Athens when we spotted the smoke. No one wanted to cram an extra stop into our East Texas barbecue tour last weekend. We were stuffed after eating at three places and we wanted only to sample the Hog Wings at Cripple Creek in Athens before returning to Dallas. But the smoke on the side of the highway in Montalba was enticing. We drove past, but Posse co-found Chris Wilkins said, “We probably should turn around.” Wheelman Marshall Cooper obliged. And so we pulled into…
 - 04/20/2011
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More on Texas Monthly’s taking the gas

I don’t mean to pour charcoal lighter on the fire, but Gary is indisputably correct about gas versus wood: No one who cooks with gas belongs on a list of Texas’ best barbecue joints, any more than grape Nehi belongs on a wine list. (And the offense isn’t pardoned just because the gas cook throws on, as Marshall Cooper puts it, “a couple of sticks of wood for perfume.”) Texas Monthly, more than most, ought to realize this. Indeed, in the introduction to the magazine’s last Top 50 issue (published in June 2008), the editors described their vaunted list thusly:Our…
 - 04/19/2011
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‘Someone needs to call out Texas Monthly on its Top 50 BBQ joints’

One of the great things about full-day barbecue tours is the time it allows for important, spirited debates about important issues. Some of the topics we’ve addressed: Is it ever worth making a special stop at a joint that advertises on a highway billboard? (No.) Should you make an impromptu stop at a place that has “Soulman” in its name? (Probably not. They’re trying too hard.) Can “great” sausage ever truly compare to “great” brisket? (No. We need a new grading system for sausage.) On our East Texas tour last weekend, we got into a new hot topic. “Someone needs…
 - 04/18/2011
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Pitmaster and preacher, Baby J McKenzie wins BBQ converts in Palestine

Editor’s note: This joint is now closed. It’s the most unusual smoker any of us have seen. A giant black metal box on short stilts with a smokestack reaching 20-feet high, located just out the side door from Baby J’s Bar B Que and Fish near Palestine. With a flick of his wrist, Jeremiah “Baby J” McKenzie toggles one of the huge counterweights and a door magically lifts, exposing eight rotating cook racks filled with chicken and ribs. There is an identical cooking chamber on the opposite side. “That’s just heaven,” says Posse veteran Marshall Cooper, clearly smitten with an…
 - 04/17/2011
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On the road again: East Texas II BBQ Tour begins tomorrow at Stanley’s

The posse returns to one of our favorite joints in the state on Saturday to begin the second East Texas BBQ tour. Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q in Tyler was the starting point for our first East Texas tour in February 2010. We’ve gotten to know owner and pitmaster Nick Pencis pretty well since then, he’s one of the “young gun” pitmasters who are leading the next generation of great Texas BBQ cooks. We can’t wait to try Stanley’s ribs, considered by many to be among the best in the state. The first time the Posse was there, a customer bought…
 - 04/15/2011
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Novosad BBQ & Sausage Market: The I-10 BBQ adventure continues

After lunch at Gonzales Food Market, we headed east on Hwy. 90. The next official stop was going to be City Market in Schulenburg, but we hoped to find a joint or two on the 41 mile drive over. We talked about having a cold Shiner beer in the town of Shiner, of course. This was the first decent sized town on the route, but we came up empty. The brewery was closed and we didn’t find a bar open. Onward to Hallettsville and Novosad BBQ & Sausage Market, a joint I had heard of but didn’t know much about.…
 - 04/13/2011

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